Reptile Bites

A. Nelson Avery

Key words: reptile bites, snakebite, rattlesnakes, copperhead snakes, coral snakes, exotic snakes, antivenin, agriculture

Reptiles are poikilothermic (cold blooded), and to warm themselves they lie in direct sunlight or absorb radiant heat from warm surfaces. For that reason, most reptile species are found between latitudes of 40°N and 40°S (1).

While reptiles can transmit various pathogens and toxins via bite wounds and cause trauma and pain by biting, the most common diseases in humans related to reptiles and amphibians are due to transmission of various species of Salmonella. As an example, an outbreak of Salmonella enterica occurred among visitors to a Colorado zoo reptile exhibit in 1996 that was associated with touching a wooden barrier around a Komodo dragon exhibit (1-3).

Reptiles are in the class Reptilia, which includes four orders: Squamata (snakes and lizards), Crocodylia (crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gavials), Testudinata (tortoises and turtles), and Rhynchocephalia (tuatara). Depending on the classification scheme, there are 4 to 5 families of venomous snakes in the world: Viperidae, Elapidae, Colubridae, Atractaspididae (sometimes included with Columbridae), and Hydrophiidae (Table 32.1) (1,4-6).

Of the estimated 3,000 species of snakes in the world, there are only about 375 known species of venomous snakes, and even fewer that are capable of causing significant envenomation. There may be as many as 3 million snake bites annually worldwide, with estimates of death ranging from 30,000 to 150,000 (4,6-12).

0 0

Post a comment